To the Editor:
Alduous Huxley once said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”
Recently, in a conversation with a friend, somehow the talk turned toward the subject of climate change. While he did not deny that climate change might be occurring, he was convinced that human activity was not the cause.
I should have asked him a few questions to see how he dealt with things once considered to be actual facts. Such as: does the sun revolve around the earth? Is the earth flat?
I assume that he would have answered no to all of these questions. For centuries we believed that a yes was the answer to all of these questions, until science proved that these were not true.
This climate change discussion reminded me of another more recent fight over facts. For years, the gasoline additive tetra-ethyl lead was treated as a hazardous material that caused neurological problems for workers in the factories. However, it took decades after the problem of contamination from leaded gasoline was known that laws were passed to protect human health from this toxin.
Why the delay? Intense lobbying and distortion of the facts by those who were making profits from production of tetra-ethyl lead — the kind that was put into gasoline.
That situation is similar to the current climate change debate. The largest economic interests are clearly aligned against efforts to address the causes of rapid climate change. On the other hand, the scientific community clearly understands that the high rate of carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere is steadily raising the air and ocean temperatures; thus changing the heat balance of the entire world. That, by definition, is climate change.
So, what will it take to begin reducing carbon emissions? Will it take the predictions of the scientists coming true before we will take this problem seriously? Will it take things like persistent drought in some parts of the country with excessive storms and flooding in others? Maybe heightened awareness will come when the insurance industry begins changing rates, or the intelligence and military communities begin planning for the consequences of predicted climate changes. Oh, excuse me, those things are already happening!
Maybe it’s time for all of us to accept the facts and begin taking rapid climate change seriously.